Concept cars are speculation generators. They exist to suggest or point fingers, to make things happen, to create a buzz. Make noise. Yes, even the electric ones. So much the better, because the boy has Mission R has a lot to say.
But of course, that says nothing. We are. The next Cayman, perhaps. I wouldn’t be unhappy at all. It looks great and although we don’t yet know how this car will be powered, we can say that the styling features of this one are more like a Taycan than a 911.
An electric Cayman then? Porsche itself says it doesn’t know yet. Pull the other. Going on an industry-standard eight-year model cycle means the 982’s replacement will be here in four years. The design will already have been signed, as well as the packaging, which means that the technical specifications must be defined. Heck, the prototypes will probably already be shaking somewhere. Maybe it could be both hybrid and electric? All pure speculation.
Photography: Mark Riccioni
I’m more interested in what the Mission R says about Porsche’s attitude towards motorsport. That it can be electric for one. But we already knew that because he competes in Formula E. Urgh, Formula E, motorsport in beige. If I were Porsche, I’d want to make sure my electric motorsport program goes beyond that, too. It does. Porsche’s statement that the Mission R has the performance of a 911 Supercup car was interesting and not just for what it says about this car’s performance on the track.
The Supercup championship is a one-make racing series that follows the Formula 1 calendar. But 911 racing history has been made to death. It’s no exaggeration to say that a one-make electric racing championship is just the supporting act F1 needs to show it has an answer to Formula E and is looking forward rather than rearward. But let’s rewind for a moment – 40 years ago the BMW M1 Procar series backed F1, a first step which, two years later, saw BMW take the plunge into F1 itself. This may be the Mission R’s ultimate role: a launch pad for Porsche’s return to Formula 1.
This is a unique concept car that works and works well. Because Porsche. The electric motors that power it – one on each axle – are taken from the Taycan Turbo S, but operate here not on an 800V architecture, but on 900V. Nothing new for Porsche, because it’s the same as the 919 Hybrid. And yes, the Mission R was designed and developed by the same team. They know what they are talking about. More voltage means more power: 429 hp for the front axle, 644 hp for the rear.
More interesting than how it happens is how it ends. It has conventional disc brakes, but when I drove it, 60 percent of the front braking and all of the rear braking was regenerative. It has the capacity to recharge the battery under braking at 800kW. Yes, 800 kW regeneration. It’s amazing – the fastest charge it can accept via cable is 350kW. Plus, that means pretty much every watt that comes out of the car when accelerating is put back in when you slow down. OK, it’s not a perpetual motion machine, but it’s a very useful way to extend your reach. A range that would allow the Mission R to run flat out for 30-40 minutes – the same running time the Supercup typically lasts.
Which brings us to the drums. Look how low the Mission R is, less than 1.2 meters high. Think it’s a bit difficult to hang a skateboard with batteries underneath? Correct. Instead, it’s a 250kg trunk behind the seats, with a capacity of around 80kWh. Its placement is key, says Porsche, not just for anti-SUV exterior aesthetics, but to lower the driver as much as possible and improve dynamics. Centralizing the heaviest mass allows the Mission R to corner better.
It is true that it changes direction very well. There’s a section at the Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles where you climb a hill over a blind ridge, then dive quickly right into a long camber left, then another right-left jab. The steering wheel never stops moving, but the Mission R charges it with no apparent effort. No idea of the mass that is against it, not least because the negative effects of 1,500 kg are already compensated by a sufficiently bulky set of slicks.
There’s enough power to take them down, though. It’s bumpy here, able to lift the wheels into the air and remind you that this car hasn’t done much development work. It skips the worst sections, there’s an understeer grunt when the front tires reach their limits, but you feel safe because what the suspension lacks in full race car sophistication it at least makes up for. in reaction time. There’s not much mid-corner steering feel, but massive cornering grip gives you the confidence to push hard, knowing you can still call on massive stopping power if you need it.
The brake pedal itself is a little soft by racing standards but I’m pushing electrons rather than hydraulic fluid and what’s better is that Porsche seems to have successfully transferred between regen and disc . If there is a transition from one to the other, I cannot spot it. No problem with the throttle either. Sure, there’s no lag or delay with the electricity, but there’s a lot of power to distribute and it can all be quite sudden and hectic. Instead, it’s intuitive and precise, easy to vary and adjust your line through turns.
Steer it straight and when the slicks are cold, the Mission R is able to spin all four of them off the line. Porsche says 0-62 mph is handled in 2.5 seconds. I say Porsche forgot to press stop for a few tenths. It has about the same power to weight ratio as a Bugatti Chiron.
The interior might not be quite as opulent, but it packs some radical thought. Currently, FIA regulations require production-based racing cars to use an additional steel roll cage inside the car’s existing structure. This limits interior space and access and adds significant weight. Thus, the Mission R gets rid of it, proposing instead a carbon fiber exoskeleton strong enough to meet the specifications. Panels of glass fill the gaps in the trellis above your head, letting in light. It is bright and airy inside, complementing the design.
The seat uses 3D-printed pads placed on a one-piece molding that extends from the headrest to below you. The material it is made of can also be found on the doors. It looks a bit like carbon fiber. Similar layered construction, but the fibers are natural, just like the glue it is impregnated with. Not as strong as carbon, but ethically sensitive.
Even the aero has a soft side. There may be a giant wing out back, but it’s not just downforce. Hydraulic actuators could give it a low-drag mode, a la DRS. Because it’s a concept that Porsche hasn’t gotten to work yet, nor the most interesting bits on the front of the car. The intention is for the aero flaps in front of each front wheel to open and close, either blocking air or allowing it to flow over the front wheel. Engineers believe this would improve yaw performance when cornering.
Do you have any idea how many ideas Mission R incorporates? Concept cars are often accused of being nothing more than show ponies, designed to carry the designer’s ego rather than the company’s future ethos. This is different. It contains so many direct intelligent thoughts as well as so many indirect clues to possible directions. Read what you want, but my main conclusion is this: I was worried about the future of motorsport in the electric age. This did more than anything else to reassure me.